After Wichita State’s decision to bolt the Missouri Valley Conference for the American so they can play Tulane twice a year, much speculation ensued regarding who would replace the Shockers. A conference that had hitherto been dominated by Gregg Marshall & Co. went looking for a new member, from everyone from Murray State to Nebraska-Omaha.
In the end, only one school was chosen.
The Valparaiso Crusaders—darlings of the Horizon League—were selected as the only new addition (for now). While reports were swirling and the invitation was extended to the school, an official announcement was finally made Thursday that the university had accepted the invitation.
In his official statement, Valpo President Mark Heckler said the following, sounding excited about the path forward for the Crusaders:
“We are thrilled to join the Missouri Valley Conference,” said Mark A. Heckler, Ph.D., president. “This is an important step forward for all of our athletics programs and an opportunity to advance the national standing of Valparaiso University. The Valley is one of the nation’s most historic athletic conferences, and we look forward to actively engaging with its outstanding member institutions and Valley leadership to strengthen both the conference and Valpo Athletics.”
In the same announcement, Valparaiso clearly wanted to make it known that they have the credentials to compete with the best in the Missouri Valley. While they might not possess the Final Four banner that Wichita State has, there’s still plenty of history for them to celebrate. And boy did they lay it out for us:
Valpo brings a strong tradition across its athletic programs to the Missouri Valley Conference, most notably its success in men’s basketball. The Crusaders have captured 14 league regular season titles over the last 23 years and have made nine trips to the NCAA Tournament. Over the last three seasons, Valpo has won 82 games — a total that ranks among the top-15 nationally. The program has enjoyed the two winningest seasons in program history in the last three years and has appeared in the postseason all three years, including a run to the NIT championship game at Madison Square Garden in 2015–2016.
Clearly the team is elated to be joining one of the nation’s more prominent mid-major conferences, one in which many members—past and present—have historical records that would make some power conference teams envious. They know this step up gives their already-superb program a chance to reach even greater heights.
So, in order to make their jubilation known, the Valparaiso Athletic Department released a sweet hype video to accompany the announcement. I recommend putting this on in the background the next time you have to do something brutal and challenging, like doing a decathlon or reading one of my pieces.
Now, while the university might be happy with how things turned out, not everyone feels the same way. Understandably, Jon LeCrone, the Horizon League Commissioner, is not thrilled about losing one of his conference’s most prominent members. After losing Butler a few years ago and now seeing Valpo go, the conference has lost a ton of history.
Horizon League Commish Jon LeCrone makes statement concerning Valparaiso. pic.twitter.com/20nmZPK48W— Paul Oren (@NWIOren) May 25, 2017
You can just feel the subdued outrage.
Regardless, this is a fantastic moment for a program that’s looking to move from its Cinderella status to greater prestige. Conference realignment is always exciting, and this is a promising move for both parties involved (as well as all of college basketball).